Traditional, exotic mix at Ghanaian restaurant, Palace Gate

February 15, 2013 3:24:00 PM PST
Familiar ingredients like plantains, beans and rice are found at Palace Gate, but there are also some more exotic flavors in the West African kitchen.

The customer base is pretty much all expats from Ghana and Nigeria, but that doesn't mean the food at The Palace Gate Restaurant is crazy-exotic.

"We use the onions, ginger, pepper and tomatoes," said Harriet Dade, one of the cooks at Palace Gate.

Those relatively simple ingredients are used in a number of ways, along with imported palm oil and black-eyed peas, for instance, plus fried fish and plantains, in a dish called redred.

"We boil the black-eyed beans, then we put in some salt then we put in some rice and we add some leaves to change it for the color to become the name waakya," Dade said.

And that waakya also has two types of sauce on it: one mild tomato; one blazing hot, called shito. Gari, or cassava powder is here as well, plus pasta and a hard-boiled egg; all of the elements of the dish are mixed together before eating.

There's also peanut stew with goat, a hearty, bracing bowl that's great on a cold day. You get sides of fufu (that's mashed and steamed cassava root) or a giant rice ball, to tear off at will and dip into the peanutty broth. The store is clearly reliant on local African grocery stores.

"Mostly like our goat meat that we use for the peanut butter soup, we have to buy from the African store; and the waakya leaves we have to buy from the African store; the black-eyed beans too, from the African store," she said.

If you do order something, be sure to ask about the spice level first, since local custom brings the heat.

"Most of our food, we like it spicy, but over here we make it mild and we do the spicy, we put it on the side," said Dade.

There aren't a lot of Ghanian restaurants in Chicago, but if you're feeling a little adventurous, you can kind of have it different ways; some with your hands, others with utensils, and some dishes, like this waakya, are pretty spicy, which I happen to like.

The restaurant also has a small food truck that roams around downtown, usually stopping along Wacker Drive and near the Sheraton and Towers Hotel.

Palace Gate
4548 N. Magnolia Ave
(773) 769-1793

The Palace Gate food truck also stops during day at: 400 E. Wacker
500 N. New St. (near Sheraton & Towers Hotel) just south of Illinois St., east of Columbus